BATON ROUGE – A new Louisiana Sea Grant supported book will make its debut on Oct. 28 at the Louisiana Book Festival. “Fragile Grounds, Louisiana’s Endangered Cemeteries,” published by University Press of Mississippi in partnership with Louisiana Sea Grant, is part of the America’s Third Coast book series.
Authored by Jessica H. Schexnayder and Mary H. Manhein, “Fragile Grounds” compiles stories and photographs of endangered cemeteries throughout the state’s coastal zone and beyond, linking the fragile land to the frailty of the state’s threatened community structures. It highlights the state’s vibrant diversity as shown through its unique burial customs and traditions, while promoting the need for ongoing documentation of cultural elements at risk.
The cultural fabric of South Louisiana is a rich tapestry of people and customs from throughout the world, woven together to form tight-knit communities. Cemeteries associated with these communities reflect the history and settlement patterns of the state. Yet, many are endangered due to recurring natural and man-made events. Coastal erosion, sinking land, flooding, storm surge and sea-level rise have created an inland migration, which threatens to unravel the fabric of Louisiana’s communities and, by association, hastens the demise of its cemeteries. These endangered sites are a source of comfort for the living, but also a link to the historical past; once lost, that past cannot be recovered.
“Fragile Grounds” covers a diverse selection of coastal and inland cemeteries documented by the authors from 2011 through 2016. The research represents 138 cemeteries in 24 parishes and includes the coordinates for each site’s geographical boundary and more than 11,000 photographs. Those chosen for the manuscript have been affected by a wide array of historical and modern events, including Hurricanes Audrey, Katrina, Rita and Isaac, the floods of 1927 and August 2016, and several cases of eminent domain.
Schexnayder and Manhein will take part in a panel discussion on Louisiana’s cemeteries at the upcoming Louisiana Festival of the Book on Saturday, Oct. 28.
Schexnayder, of Denham Springs, La., is a Louisiana native and is passionate about documenting the people, history and culture of south Louisiana. Her writing and photography have been featured by the Louisiana State Archives, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Country Roads, Heart of Louisiana and Inside New Orleans. She is a retired communications coordinator for Louisiana Sea Grant.
Manhein, of Baton Rouge, La., is author of “The Bone Lady: Life as a Forensic Anthropologist”; “Trail of Bones: More Cases from the Files of a Forensic Anthropologist”; “Bone Remains: Cold Cases in Forensic Anthropology”; and the mystery novel “Floating Souls: The Canal Murders.” She is retired director of the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services, or FACES, Laboratory at LSU.
“Fragile Grounds, Louisiana’s Endangered Cemeteries” is now available from the University Press of Mississippi at http://www.upress.state.ms.us/.